"Do you like albums in which popular indie artists try to make themselves less popular? Because I'm not sure I do" Arcade Fire Reflektor reviewed
This was never going to be easy. Expectations tend to get a bit out of whack when your first three records are three of the best indie albums of all-time. Funeral made them indie rock royalty. Neon Bible, demigods. Then came The Suburbs, the Grammy, and my favorite tumblr ever. A decade after their first album, Arcade Fire are officially immortal.
Having said that, the band's fourth record, Reflektor, is likely to end up apocrypha.
My reactions listening to Arcade Fire Reflektor:
First Listen - This sounds like bad Talking Heads. Or good LCD Soundsytem.
Second Listen - Shits difficult.
Third Listen - Okay honestly none of this is working for me. I think I'm about to have a falling out with a lot of my hipster friends.
Fourth Listen - Started listening to 2 Chains "Mainstream Ratchet" midway through "Flashbulb Eyes."
As you've probably heard/read by now, this is a dance record. Win Butler and Co. enlisted LCD Soundsystems' James Murphy to man the production booth and "funkify" their sound. I'm sure Mr. Murphy gave it his best go, but he failed. And not spectacularly, but in the most boring, safe way possible. This album is clunky, lethargic, and at points seems like it's actively trying to make you dislike it. Gone are the transcendent guitar hooks and pure ass-kicking of the previous records. They've been replaced by dance numbers to which it only seems plausible to 'do the palsy' to.
For chrissakes, this is an undanceable dance record.
Sure there are moments here and there (see below), but ultimately this is just a bad record. Easily the worst they've ever made. And while that probably says more about the aforementioned records than it does Reflektor, it doesn't change the reality of what this record is.
Simultaneously the most groan worthy and interesting cut on the record is "Normal Person." Essentially a b-side for The Suburbs "Modern Man," at least thematically, "Normal Person" feels like the only time on the record the band lets loose. On an album where the band feels needlessly confined, "Normal Person" feels like a long exhale. It's one of the few branching outs that actually works.
My favorite part of Arcade Fire has always been the guitars, and this is probably the only track on the record in which they shine.
Arcade Fire Reflektor is more or less the indie rock Yeezus in that it's more interesting than good. But at least Yeezus gave us "Blood On the Leaves" and "Hold My Liquor." On my first half-dozen listens, Reflektor seems to offer nothing near that good.
You can squint at it for as long as you want, but all that's there is a stale, listless record.